Tag Archives: my kin

Jun
14
2012
Like It’s 1999

You can accumulate a lot of crap when you work at the same job for over 15 years. I’ve brought a lot of personal stuff into the office. I figured if I was going to spend so much time there, I could at least make it more comfortable. But perhaps all the stuff made me become too comfortable, entrenched even. So I had to laugh when I read Margaret’s post about starting her new job.

She is the anti-me regarding personal stuff at work: “I don’t like to bring anything to work that I can’t fit in my handbag and carry out with me on a moment’s notice.” She concluded she’d like to “leave a little more of myself at work.” But I realized I needed to do the opposite…begin to extract myself. This is one of the reasons I cleaned my office recently. I was so ruthless in my commitment to cleaning, I kept waiting for my coworkers to ask me if I was leaving. I even had a snappy comeback ready: “Is it that obvious?”

I may not be leaving imminently, but I’m creating an environment in which leaving would be a hell of a lot easier.

Here is an assortment of the crap I found in one of my desk drawers, some of it lovingly scanned for your amusement (actually I hoped having scans would make me willing to throw this stuff out). While some accumulation of crap is forgivable in my situation, my physical office has changed locations three times. So all this stuff made it through at least one cull. Some of it I bothered to pack and move three times.

This drawer contained:

Menus for closed restaurants, obsolete carbon paper forms, a handwritten list of blogs I read circa 2007, and a Day Runner I haven’t used since 2001. Of the 37 contacts written into the address section, I have spoken to only six in the last year. I have no idea who one of them is, even after Googling.

The drawer also contained miscellaneous decorations, none of which have been displayed since at least 2006. These include:

1.) The dream catcher Dave’s parents brought back for me from Alaska. It’s been in the drawer since my last office move and the disintegrating leather left dust all over the drawer. Yet I still had trouble throwing it out because Dave’s Mom had given it to me and she’s gone now.

2.) At least three dozen postcards from my travels, many from my 1994 study abroad semester. Anytime I saw a painting I’d learned about in Art History, I bought the postcard. Why wouldn’t you want to look at this during your work day?

Or how about a picture of the Danish Queen, circa 1992. I need to hang on to that, right?

Tracy is very jealous of these emeralds.

3.) Precious child artwork. I can’t say exactly when these masterpieces were created, but since my older nephews are now 20 and 17, I’m guessing it was at least five years ago. Ha.

The black hole in the tree symbolizes man’s search for meaning.

I like the bold use of empty space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.) Print out of a 2000 article from the Onion that mentions my favorite element. The yellow highlighting of the relevant line (“Rumors of a longtime feud with molybdenum…”) is now too faded to see…perhaps because this piece of paper is 12 frigging years old.

5.) A yellowed clipping about my favorite tennis player’s 2001 Wimbledon win, which made me cry big fat tears of joy (in 2001, not when I cleaned my office).

6.) Several cards from my Mom, back when she still loved me and sent me cards for no reason (in other words, ten years ago).

Boomerang Bear is sad because Tracy’s Mom doesn’t send random cards anymore.

7.) I have no idea where or when I got this, but I love Paddington Bear and should totally keep this in case my boss gives me a coloring assignment.

8.) Original works of art by yours truly. Meet Knookie the Computer Chip, a comic I made up in 1985. Apparently I got swept away by nostalgia for the 20th anniversary of Knookie’s creation (and/or was really bored on work travel). I have no artistic talent whatsoever…enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.) And finally, the best thing I found while cleaning out my office, this page from the 2001 Onion calendar (Moses, Moses, Moses). I’m probably not going to throw this out.

How much personal crap do you have at work? Are you entrenched or could you make a quick get-away if necessary?

Feb
27
2012
Want Some Cold Duck?

Grampa started in early with offers of Cold Duck. The same Cold Duck he had obviously already been enjoying. Even my Dad didn’t want any of that swill. Instinctively, I shrunk back, standing behind my Mom.

Although Mom and Dad assured Grampa no one wanted any Cold Duck, he would check in with us on this point every few minutes anyway with a barrage of “Want some Cold Duck? You sure? Cold Duck?”

While nudging each other and repeatedly asking, “want some Cold Duck” would eventually become a running joke in our family, at that moment we were trapped in a loop of Cold Duck offers. Would we ever be able to leave without drinking Cold Duck? 

Perhaps he was so drunk, he thought he was funny. Or perhaps he was so drunk he kept forgetting he had already checked on our desire for some Cold Duck. Or perhaps he was so drunk, he didn’t realize how inappropriate it was to offer his grandchildren Cold Duck.

The only thing I knew for sure…he was so drunk.

Luckily, he snapped out of his Cold Duck obsession long enough to remember he had ice cream.

“Do you want some Metropolitan ice cream?”

I shot a look at my Mom. Did I? We were all wary. What the heck was Metropolitan ice cream?

“What’s Metropolitan, Grampa?”

“You know, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry…Metropolitan.”

“Oh, you mean Neapolitan?”

“No, it’s called Metropolitan.”

We went back and forth on this until Grampa was good and pissed. He insisted he was right and said, “I’ll show you.”

We dutifully followed him to the kitchen, dreading the moment when he realized his error.

But instead, we watched in disbelief as he held up the carton of ice cream and said, “see, it’s Metropolitan” while simultaneously pointing to the word “Neapolitan.”

Grampa did not need any more Cold Duck.

This post was inspired by the Write on Edge RemembeRED writing prompt to write a memoir piece in which wine, coffee, or chocolate features prominently.

My Dad’s parents were a real treat…but making fun of Grampa was usually good for a laugh. Neapolitan isn’t very common anymore, but whenever I see it, I still call it “metropolitan.” And I still don’t want any Cold Duck, thanks for asking.


Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Nov
4
2011
Photo Friday (and Recipe!): Toblerone Shortbread

Are any of your family members living away from home? Do you imagine them lonely and longing for homemade treats?

Maybe you want to send them a care package, but don’t know what might ship well?

Perhaps you are lazy, but want to seem giving and skilled at baking?

Make Toblerone Shortbread!

I settled on this recipe for my oldest nephew’s first college care package last year. I figured shortbread would be sturdy and not subject to getting stale while in transit. And there are four Toblerone bars on top and I love Toblerone. In fact, I’m angry with myself for not thinking of adding Toblerone to a baked good myself.

I had my first Toblerone bar in Geneva during my college study abroad semester. I also left my roommate alone in a 40-year old man’s hotel room in Geneva. Alone in the hostel that night, sleep didn’t come easy (although it should have because I didn’t have to hear my roommate’s horse-like snoring) as I imagined what I’d say when calling her parents to inform them their daughter was missing. Or chopped up into bits, which would now, ironically, be an appropriate size for sprinkling on top of shortbread. Luckily she came back unscathed the next morning and I can focus my memories of Switzerland on what is really important–chocolate.

The hardest part of this recipe is getting the dough evenly spread in a 9- x 13-inch pan. I always give up and have thinner edges. These edges are unattractive and thus have to be cut off and eaten by the baker. It’s a rule.

As it turned out, my nephew had never had Toblerone before I sent him these bars last year and he loved them. So I made them for him again last weekend, because I’m giving and skilled at baking. And I’m childless and want visitors when I’m in the nursing home.

RECIPE

Candy Bar Shortbread from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

pinch salt

4 (3.52-ounce) Toblerone bars, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Ms. Goldman says to stack two baking sheets together and line the top sheet with parchment, but I don’t do that because it’s crazy. But you go ahead and do what you have to do.

2. In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add flour and salt and mix to make a stiff dough that does not quite hold together.

3. Pat dough into a 9- x 13-inch pan lined with parchment paper (I make the parchment paper into a sling that I can then use to pull the bars out of the pan for easier cutting). Curse when you are unable to spread the dough evenly across the whole pan.

4. Bake until lightly golden (get ready for the best part…), 25 to 40 minutes. Get annoyed that she gives you a FIFTEEN minute range in baking times and make a snide comment to your husband about recipe development.

5. Sprinkle chopped Toblerone on hot uncut shortbread.

6. Let set for about 5 minutes and then spread melted Toblerone over shortbread (I use a small offset spatula).

7. Cut into small squares (I usually get about two dozen, including the thin edges I eat myself).

8. Put cookies in the fridge or freezer to set up.

I always become alarmed at the way the Toblerone oozes off of the cut shortbread edges, so I use the parchment paper sling to slide the cut bars back into the pan before putting the whole pan into the fridge. Of course, then I sort of have to cut the bars again, because the Toblerone spackles the cut bars back together as it hardens.

Pack the cookies and a couple of extra Toblerone bars and send to your ungrateful nephew who’s having far too much fun at college to ever acknowledge the arrival of a package.

Forget to take a picture of the finished bars before you pack up all the good-looking ones. Share a picture of a homely edge piece.

Nov
1
2011
Winter Cauliflower

It was a delicacy we had only once, but my family still speaks of it decades later. Mom’s cauliflower goo was before its time. Today she could call it “cauliflower mash,” an ingenious carb substitute!

In my pre-FoodTV youth, overcooked (and/or canned) vegetables were the norm. My family hadn’t even tried Chinese take-out yet. But my Dad, brother, and I knew something was wrong with this cauliflower. While the florets on our plates looked in tact, they dissolved on contact with the butter knife.

“What’s up with this cauliflower,” we asked.

“I don’t know. It must be winter cauliflower,” Mom replied.

She’s still trying to live down that creative excuse.

Over the years, we’ve added other stories to the lore of Mom’s innovative cooking. She hates cooking. Cooking wasn’t going to get much attention.

Salads consisted of lettuce leaves barely cut or ripped, often too large to shove in your mouth. I haven’t eaten a salad made by my mother in almost twenty years, but I still call non-bite size pieces of lettuce “Mumsie lettuce,” an obnoxious yet amusing phrase coined by my Dad. Even my husband says it now, which really fries Mom’s ass. Once again, she was before her time. Today, countless restaurants cut iceberg into huge wedges, throw some blue cheese on top, and call it cuisine. Annoying, because if I wanted to have to cut my salad, I’d eat at Mom’s.

Mom can cook. I still remember her mac and cheese fondly. She makes good stuffing too. I look forward to her (green-frosted) orange cookies every Christmas (probably the only reason I avoided contracting scurvy as a picky child). No matter what the proliferation of cooking shows implies, we can’t all be accomplished chefs. I don’t like to cook either. The kitchen in our temporary rental house during high school probably still smells like the burned Rice-A-Roni I forgot I was making one afternoon. I took the saying about pots literally. Who can be bothered to watch a pot boil anyway?

Photo credit

RECIPE

Winter Cauliflower

Remove outer leaves and core from a head of cauliflower. Cut into florets.

Add 3 quarts of salted water to a saucepan and bring water to a boil. Add cauliflower florets to the boiling water.

Boil florets for 10-20 minutes or until cauliflower no longer has mass.

—————————————————-

This week’s RemembeRED memoir prompt:

“Take me back…whether to a month ago or decades ago.

Share with me a special recipe, but don’t just list out ingredients.

Take me there…in 500 words or less.”

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Sep
5
2011
Along For The Ride

Do I miss my childhood? I miss four things about being a kid: my Gram, the close relationship I had with my older brother, summers being something special, and the excitement of Christmas. And maybe MTV playing music videos.

I’m not secretive about not being a kid person. Not a very popular opinion, I know, but at least I’m consistent. I didn’t like kids even when I was a kid. I didn’t like being a kid.

Kids have no control over most of what happens to them.

Other people made my choices. My room was painted pink. I hated pink. I wanted my hair long. My Mom insisted on keeping it short. I cried every time she had it cut.

My older brother would babysit me during the summers. Mike wanted to play tennis with his buddy one day. He wouldn’t let babysitting cramp his style. Guess who had to go with them?

I couldn’t think of anything less fun than walking two miles in the blazing sun to watch sub-amateur tennis. Mike suggested I ride my bike. Did I mention the route was uphill? Huffing and puffing within a few blocks, my little legs couldn’t keep the pedals turning. So I had to walk two miles uphill in the blazing sun while pushing my bike.

Once at the courts, guess whose job it was to retrieve every unforced error (and there were many)? We still talk about that little outing.

On the other hand, I couldn’t think of anything more fun than baking (and eating) cookies. I asked to bake all the time and Mom rarely agreed.

“Why not,” I would whine.

“Because I don’t want to make cookies,” she would say.

“But I’ll do it,” I would insist.

“No, you’re too little. I’d have to help you and I don’t feel like making cookies right now.” Mom clearly identified with Hillary Clinton on making cookies.

Even as a preteen, I still wasn’t allowed. Although, I did almost set our house on fire twice during high school, so maybe she was right to keep me away from the oven.

Kids are annoying.

Kids have no self-control. Maybe because they have no say in anything else, they figure they might as well make everyone else miserable too.

I remember refusing to go to bed one night for my Gram. I danced around, sang at the top of my lungs, jumped on the couch, and generally acted like an escaped mental patient. Gram’s look said, “I’m too old for this shit.” Although she probably thought it in Polish.

I felt exhilarated and terrified. You see, I knew I was tired. I could barely stand up. But I had wired crazy kid brain. My misbehavior felt like something I watched happen rather than something I chose to do. I felt sorry for my Gram and I actually annoyed myself. I was powerless.

I can look back on my childhood fondly now. But I don’t really miss it.

This little uplifting piece was inspired by the memoir writing prompt at Write on Edge. The prompt asked us to use the image of the crayon for inspiration and to begin the post with the words… “I miss my childhood…” I feel the need to point out I wouldn’t have colored in pink even if that crayon were the only one left in the box.

Jul
20
2011
Law and Order: Birthday Party Unit

There should be a special place in hell for people who commit the especially heinous offense of ruining your birthday party.

My earliest birthday memory is the party during which my cousin Craig pushed me down our back stairs.

I don’t remember ever speaking to him again. Cousin Craig and his family moved away a few years later, so he crystallized in my memory as the little demon who pushed me down the stairs at my own birthday party. He is nothing more, nothing less.

My Mom sometimes tries to tell me what the adult cousin Craig is doing now, but adult, wife-marrying, kid-fathering cousin Craig is a phantom. Whenever she brings him up, I just say: “you mean, the kid who pushed me down the stairs at my birthday party?”

Then she argues with me about the veracity of my memory.

Mom may have said adult cousin Craig is a lawyer, but I can’t be sure since I don’t give a shit. But it figures he’d be a lawyer.

Because he’s a jerk.

Who pushes little girls down stairs.

At their own birthday parties.

My Mom claims ignorance of this incident. She might have a vague recollection of my falling down the stairs at one of my parties, clumsy me, but doesn’t remember that cousin Craig clearly “helped” me down to the hard concrete.

All I know is this:

One minute I was a step away from grabbing the back door handle to go inside, the next minute cousin Craig was crowding me on the stairs, and I ended up unceremoniously deposited onto the concrete slab three stairs down. Cousin Craig was smiling. Cousin Craig is the epitome of evil.

Open and shut case, he had means, motive and opportunity. He had been standing inches from me, trying to get to the same place I was going and pushing past me to get there first. And he was clearly jealous because it was my party.

But even with my sharp eye-witness testimony, and my brilliant summation of the facts, the perp got off scot-free.

What else happened at this party? Was this the year the “Dream Whip” frosting finally switched from a pink tint to my beloved green? What did I get? Hell if I know. What is burned into my brain is cousin Craig’s feigned innocence, his smug lack of remorse, the very literal pain in my ass, and the angry tears about crashing down the stairs to the pavement.

Just look at him…

Clearly a criminal master mind.

My Mom will likely have a cow when she read this. “What if he finds this?”

I say let him find it. This is my own brand of vigilante justice, just like the resolution of every episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (elite squad my ass, they’re always letting the victim commit suicide or missing the clear signs that the victim or one of their loved ones is going to shoot the perp, often at the police station) in which they can’t get the bad guy.

Maybe he’ll apologize, the twerp.

——-

I wrote this post in response to this week’s writing prompt from Studio 30 Plus, which was: “Your earliest memory of your own birthday party.”

Jul
11
2011
Why It is Important to Know Your Family Tree

When I answered our rotary phone, the voice on the other end of the line was unfamiliar. I didn’t want to tell him I was alone in the house.

But this guy was persistent. He peppered me with questions about my parents’ whereabouts, when I expected them back.

“Wait, who are you again?”

“I’m your cousin Joe.”

Yeah right, buddy.

My Mom was an only child. My Dad’s brother never married. I don’t have any cousins.

But Mom did. I quickly checked my mental list of Gram’s siblings and their children. And came up empty. Nope, no idea who this guy on the phone was. All I knew is he was creeping me out.

I can’t remember if I bothered to apologize first or if I just hung up. But I definitely hung up on “cousin” Joe. Then I checked the locks on all the doors and huddled up in a corner of the couch looking around in paranoia waiting for my parents to get home. At which time I told them the story about how a strange guy claiming to be cousin Joe called.

My Mom didn’t miss a beat, “Yeah, Joe…did he say why he was calling?”

Oh crap.

My grandfather died before I was born. I wasn’t very familiar with that side of Mom’s family. But there was most certainly a cousin Joe.

So Mom had to call her cousin Joe to explain that her daughter was a moron. She made me get on the phone to apologize. I muttered an apology, but Joe took care of most of the talking. He looked forward to meeting me…at his father’s funeral.

Shit, shit, shit.

He mentioned a spanking might be in order for hanging up on him. I would find out soon enough he was only kidding, but not knowing Joe at all (obviously), I worried about the possibility anyway. At best, I knew I would be teased mercilessly. I would be introduced to each and every long-lost family member as the girl who hung up on Joe. As I wrote in my diary, “UGH!!!!!!!!!!”

As if this funeral would not be special enough, my Dad was nowhere to be found that morning. As much as we wished he had just skipped town, we all knew that wasn’t likely. We sat on the couch all dressed up and ready to go and worried he would make us late. Until he finally used his one phone call to let us know he was indisposed. “Say hi to Mom, from JAIL.”

We went to the funeral without Dad. Cousin Joe did not spank me. He did tell the story of my hanging up on him to anyone who would listen. I did shrink in horror, which of course triggered the obligatory game of “let’s tease the shy preteen girl for being shy” that well-meaning but overbearing family members inexplicably like to play.

But the day wasn’t about me and soon the teasing was over. Now I mostly remember this day as a glorious break from Dad. “Minus one,” Mom, my brother, and I felt a little lighter. We might have looked just a bit too happy to be at a funeral.

This post is in response to this week’s memoir prompt at the Red Dress Club.

Take us back to an embarrassing moment in your life.

Did someone embarrass you, your parents perhaps? Or did you bring it upon yourself?

Are you still embarrassed or can you laugh at it now?

Jun
19
2011
The Most Time I’ve Spent On Father’s Day In 24 Years

I don’t celebrate Father’s Day. I have to remind Dave about dates, so he’s always late sending his Dad a card, because I never know when Father’s Day is until it’s here.

I’ve written about Dad a little bit here. Some people shocked me in comments by pointing out the obvious affection in these posts. But there’s also this. Since Mom and I moved out in 1987, Dad and I have been estranged. Before we moved out, I dreamed of being estranged. Life has turned out pretty well for me, I think because we are estranged.

One of my big projects this year has been to organize and digitize old photos. I spent countless (OK, about 40) hours alone in the dining room poring over the pictures. I had to decide which ones were good enough to digitize, carefully remove them from the albums, clean off the years of grime and fingerprints, and put them in chronological order.

This task dragged on for months, so I tried not to spend too much time really looking at the pictures and reminiscing since I knew I’d be able to do that after the pictures were digitized. But ignoring the nostalgic pull of the pictures proved impossible. Furthermore, I was overwhelmed by the photographic evidence of a bond between me and my Dad. A bond I guess I spent years denying because it made my life easier.

Here we are at my first birthday party. Apparently I was too young to adequately articulate I don’t like pink.

Here I am apparently slapping Dad in the face for fun. Here I am adorably grabbing for my birthday balloons.

On Dad’s lap at my second birthday party.

By my third birthday, I’d already graduated from Dad’s lap, but the look he’s giving me is still precious. And he’s also not wearing the same damn yellow shirt.

I noticed a big reduction in the number of pictures after my third birthday. I asked Mom about it, teasing her that documenting the second child’s life is less important. But Mom reminded me Dad lost his job around that time and she had to work full-time. She didn’t really have time for pictures after that, thank you very much.

So that’s when things really went down the shit hole. The family lore includes a tale of my trying on shoes when I was three. When Dad asked me how the shoes felt, I apparently responded by kicking him really hard in the shin. So I always thought my relationship with Dad was strained from an early age.

But these early pictures weren’t shocking. I don’t even remember these times and all young children go through a Daddy phase. The next picture really surprised me. This is my Gram on my Mom’s side, Dad, and me in my First Communion get up five years after the last picture. When I uncovered this one, I don’t know how long I sat staring at it in tears. I was in third grade. Clearly I already hated Dad by this point, right? Huh.

The next two pictures are from middle school. Dad and I spent several days after a big snowstorm building a complicated, three-room snow fort in the backyard. Let’s face it, Dad built a snow fort. The second picture I took from the hallway window on the second floor of our toasty house after I’d given up manual labor in the freezing cold. Dad kept working by himself to finish the fort.

I cried when I saw these pictures. I cried in part because I let myself feel bitterness at not having the kind of father all kids deserve. I was so relieved to be free of Dad at 14, that I never allowed myself to grieve being essentially fatherless. I also cried in part out of sadness for Dad, who clearly loved us but could not stop the destructive behavior that drove us away.

Unfortunately, this post doesn’t end with an emotional reconciliation. Dad’s not capable of having a relationship with me. The few times I’ve tried to reach out to him, he’s made me sorry I did. The last time was pretty recent and the freshness of it must have fueled my emotional response to these pictures.

I looked through the pictures a little with my Mom when she brought them down in March, but I could feel myself getting tearful, so I did most of it by myself. At one point while Mom and I flipped pages, I thought “Dad loved me.” But I must have said it out loud, because Mom’s surprised response was, “Of course he did.”

Jun
7
2011
Ritual

“Hankie, keys. Comb, wallet-ey…”

God, seriously?

“Dad, I’m going to be late for school.”

But my complaint doesn’t have the desired effect of stopping my Dad. He is compelled to start his ritual over again. Depending on how late we were and whether my brother was around to join in with me in interrupting him and making fun, I’d either be slightly amused by this compulsion or slightly annoyed. But I was always resigned, because Dad would not leave the house without doing the whole thing no matter how many interruptions he faced.

“Hankie, keys. Comb, wallet-ey,” starting over, he checks two of his pockets.

“Ring, watch,” while he checks to make sure his wedding band is where it always is, on his left ring finger, and watch, well I never know why he says this, since he doesn’t wear one.

“Nuttin’, nuttin’,” as he clarifies that his two always-empty pockets are indeed empty. I always wondered what would happen if he found something in one of his “nuttin’, nuttin'” pockets.

“Barn door’s locked,” as he makes sure his fly isn’t open.

And finally, “O-F-F, O-F-F, O-F-F, O-F-F, O-F-F,” as he individually checks each knob on the stove. I learn never to interrupt him this late in the ritual, because he would still have to start over and then you essentially have to wait for him to go through it twice.

Even though I don’t remember any instance of Dad uncovering something forgotten through this routine (maybe the occasional unzipped fly?), he had to do it anyway. Dad drove me to school every morning for years. I estimate I heard this at least a thousand times.

I haven’t heard Dad say this in almost 24 years, but I can still hear it. And picture myself, school-uniformed, arms crossed, tapping my foot by the back door in the kitchen waiting for the last “O-F-F.”

———-

This week’s writing prompt was: “We want to know what, from your childhood, do you still know by heart?”

May
23
2011
Lode Runner

Late at night, I would sit next to my older brother and watch him play Lode Runner on our Apple IIe. The room was dark except for the bluish glow cast by the monitor. The room was quiet except for the sharp, but hollow-sounding game noises and our whispering about strategy and barely stifled laughter as we kidded each other. We didn’t want to wake our parents.

Mike was nine years older than me and after he got his driver’s license, he went out every chance he got. With college classes, work and his social life, he was hardly ever home.

I missed him.

In the summer, when Mom wasn’t strict about my bedtime, I would stay up late into the night watching MTV and waiting up for Mike, hoping that he might feel like hanging out awhile when he got home. The hanging out often revolved around Lode Runner.

Lode Runner had 150 levels and started out easy, which was good since it took awhile to get used to the two-handed keyboard skills needed to play without a joystick. It took six different keys to control the white stick figure in his quest to gather all of the gold nuggets while avoiding the orange and white stick figures who guarded the gold. The stick figure could run, climb up and down ladders, go hand over hand across suspended bars, and dig holes in the two-dimensional blue brick to temporarily trap the guards and also to make them give up the gold they sometimes carried.

The levels got progressively more difficult and started to require more strategy. Luckily, we earned an additional man for each level we completed, so when we were stumped we could experiment with our backlog of men. In a time when computers couldn’t multitask, Lode Runner monopolized our computer for weeks. We’d leave the game on in between sessions, the white stick figure constantly blinking his readiness for one of us to press a button to start the next level.

Eventually we hit a level with gold that appeared impossible to retrieve. None of the tricks we’d learned in previous levels worked. Mike was obstinate and blew through a lot of men trying the same ideas over and over again without success. We were both getting frustrated. We were worried that we would lose all our men and have to start over.

Finally I had a new idea and though Mike thought it was crazy, he tried it. His timing was off and he ran the white stick figure right into a guard. He was pissed and muttered something colorful. But I convinced him to try again. I don’t remember how many attempts it took, but I remember how amazed and excited he was when it finally worked. My idea had finally solved the level we’d been stuck on for days.

I often came up with the creative solution necessary to complete a level and Mike was better at executing the plan, with the extra years of arcade practice under his belt. We were a team.

It was just a game, and a pretty simple one, but I finally felt like something more than a pesky baby sister. I would play Lode Runner by myself after these times with my brother, but it was never as much fun without him.

——-

This week’s RemembeRED prompt:
“We want you to recall the games you played when you were young…Write a piece that explores one of your memories.”

The videos I found on You Tube make me sick with longing to play this damn game again.